Which bassist would you hire?

I give you this:

… the original version of a thing called “Stratus” as it appeared on Billy Cobham’s seminal album “Spectrum”.

And here is a live version:

Please focus on what’s done on the bass.
Which bass player would you hire?

I’m not giving away my preference just yet…


Can’t judge that - sorry. Alone that the one is a studio version and the other live makes a direct comparison at least… dodgy. The totally different soundmix in the live version sometimes makes it hard for me to isolate the bass. But that just might be my untrained ears. I get easily distracted by the screaming guitar.

Overall in the live version there was a lot more dynamic range as far as I can hear but then again in the studio might be something done to normalize the track in the mix. I also didn’t always like the dynamics of the bass in the live version.

So… Can’t tell you which bass player I would hire because I think it’s not comparable but overall enjoyed listening to the studio version more because of the refined soundmix.

OK, now I’m stumped. I thought (and still think) the difference (in musical terms) is glaring.

Let me help you out.
See if you can find something that is particular about the bassline in the studio version to define it, and then listen to the live version to see if you can find that property.

1 Like

The thing is… the first version I could listen to. I moved my body to the music.

I didn’t even like his variations with running up and playing octaves. Sorry - I like the “boring” bass line better :wink: Although it would be interesting to see if my opinion would somehow at least adjust a bit when I would hear both versions “clean” and in a refined mix.


No reason to apologize; in fact, I agree with you 100%.
I think the bassline of the first version serves the music MUCH better than the Jeff Berlin bassline in the live version. It’s relentless, it’s brutal, it’s mesmerising, it’s superbly efficient. It’s brilliant.
I like Jeff Berlin a lot as a bass player, but I tend to think that either his ego is getting the better of him here, or he is just not cut to play the same three notes for minutes on end.

The studio version bass player, coincidentally, is Leland Sklar (the guy you had to look up on Wikipedia recently). The man is a phenomenon. One of the most recorded bass players ever, and it’s stuff like this that shows us why.


I agree although this didn’t really throw me off to be honest. As said it was hard to me to focus on the bass with the screaming guitar.

But I’m listening to the studio version again and it’s just…

Not only the bass… the mix… the composition… it’s just… I’m not gonna post the picture again but you know what I mean :smiley:
By the way - you gotta hear it with headphones. There’s some stuff in there with R/L balance. Melody guitar only on right… stuff like that.


Trust me, I know.

I’m a bit older than you. I was blown away by this way back in 1973, and I was using headphones a lot then, what with me still living with my parents.

1 Like

I thought you did :wink: But you could’ve mentioned that in the initial post! :face_with_monocle:

Also, fornicate diatonic chord progressions, said Jan Hammer.

1 Like

@JoshFossgreen would like this bassline as an exercise for everyone who thinks Billie Jean is boring. :laughing:

1 Like

Thank you! Love it!

I also prefer the studio version. It’s very fitting and as you said serves the song better. Also, I’m a fan of rumbling stuff.

Which bassist would I hire? Well, tough to answer with just 1 video from each. It would depend hugely on what I wanted out of him. In either case I think I would be well served.

1 Like

Neither… I am a bass player like most others here. It’s like showing a video of two carpenters building a house to a group of other carpenters and asking them who they would “Hire” to build their house… I’ll build my own house, and I’ll play my own bass…

I would prefer to play with the drummer in the “Live” performance though…

Just sayin’…

Keepin’ on Thumpin’ My Way…


If I were free to get whomever I want, I’d get a plus bassist who can also produce in the studio - like a lot of bassists can. Bassists that can write music, compose, etc.

To apply the analogy, the carpenter who also has an eye for architecture, and knows a thing or two about electrical and plumbing.

So, for example Carol Kaye vs. Brian Wilson: Brian was a serviceable bassist, but was so much more. Come to think of it Carol was more than bass chops as too. Another random example: John Wetton, a good bassist, but much more (song writing, vocalist, serviceable guitarist, and could handle an acoustic bass quite nicely).

If I were 34 (instead of 54), and looking to join a band, I’d love to play bass…but I’d also want to sing and write and maybe produce.

1 Like

Some of you seem to be taking the question a lot more literally than I intended it. :laughing:


Thanks @peterhuppertz, I think this is a really good example of ‘less is sometimes more’. I’d save the first version to my playlist to listen later, but definitely not the live version.
But I think the blame is not solely the live bass player, the whole live performance is much more ‘in your face’ and by that, it loses the vibe of the studio version.


Yngwie Malmsteen disagrees :sweat_smile:


While I understand that most people mean “in this case, less is better” when they say “less is more”, I can’t help but think “if that’s what you mean, maybe you should consider saying it?”

I do agree with Yngwie’s assessment – if less would be more, the fabric of math would crumble before our very eyes, and everything we’ve been taught would be a lie.

1 Like

Just for fun, Frans Vollink released the first instalment of his new online workshop “Massive Overplaying on the Bass” yesterday.

Of course, many bass players liked it. One of them commented “Nice groove”, to which Frans replied “if you wanna get fired!”


It’s true there are probably many phrases in the English language that have a meaning that is understood more by the phrases use in context over time, rather than by it being technically correct, but it would be a less rich language if we gave all those phrases up. Language isn’t maths.
The less is more phrase is first known to have come from a poem in 1855, and has been widely used since then including most famously perhaps by architects and minimalists.


Yes, we generally call that a ‘cliche’. :laughing:

Try explaining that to a four year old. You’ll undermine their foundations… :wink:

1 Like